Collaborators on research and scholarship often start by establishing authorship guidelines for their planned publications, to acknowledge contributions of all partners. Guidelines vary from one discipline to another regarding the order of authors, as well as which contributions merit an author byline. Our work usually crosses many disciplines, so we have defined our general guidelines here. Most importantly, our faculty know to review these and seek any changes with the entire group of scholarly authors on a project before any work on publications begins, to avoid potential conflict later.
We follow the approach that the lead author has done the majority of the work, and that any other author must contribute in a meaningful way to the written document (not necessarily to the intervention or product). For example, if a researcher guides us in creating a fantastic game, they will be included in the credits of that game. However, if they don’t work in designing the research, collecting or analyzing the data, or writing the research article about that game, they will not be credited as authors. In the early stages of a scholarly publication, our team discusses with project collaborators their interest in being part of the publication, as well as the role they would like to take in preparing the article.
Lead Author: Takes the responsibility for executing the entire article, taking it through publication and editing (including contact with the publisher) and ensuring all authors review the final version.
Additional authors take a major role in writing the article and/or analyzing data. For example, if one author reviews data and writes summations of that data, and those summaries are used in preparing the article, the author may not end up writing a lot of the final text in the article, but should still be included. One the other hand, someone who collected data and analyzed it as part of a larger project, but did not provided any summations or written text specific to the context of a given article, would not be included.
Last author may include a team director, research supervisor or project lead who guided the overall research approach, provided guidance on structure, or played a large role in the design of the study.
Unless grant project directors or principal investigators serve one of the roles already identified, we don’t include them as authors.
Perhaps most importantly, our goal is to discuss authorship at the beginning of a project with all possible partners. This can help identify discrepancies between fields, set some ground rules, and make sure we know what needs to be included, such as grant funding numbers, written acknowledgements, and any other credits.
Written by: Barbara Chamberlin, PhD, Department Head, Department of Innovative Media Research and Extension.